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The Use of Horses and Mules in Modern Warfare
Quartermaster Revue ^ | Nov/Dec 1928 | Capt. Louis B. Gerow Q.M.C.

Posted on 09/21/2001 5:59:56 PM PDT by Hopalong

The Use of Horses and Mules in Modern Warfare
By CAPTAIN Louis B. Gerow, Q.M.C.
The Quartermaster Review – November-December 1928

SUCH tremendous strides have been made in the manufacture and utilization of mechanical means, including transport, as exemplified by the mechanization and motorization programs adopted by industry and as contemplated by the War Department, that one wonders, in this "Motor Age," whether the horse, as well as his hybrid half-brother, the mule, is not in the very near future to be relegated to an inactive status and the word "obsolete" placed opposite his name on the supply list. A study of animal requirements will present quite a different picture.

Contrary to the general belief the motor has not replaced the horse in war. The 1921 Tables of Organization prescribe strengths, in men and animals, for units shown as follows:

Officers and men  Animals
Infantry Division (War Strength)  10,997  6,992
Cavalry Division (War Strength)  7,463  9,617
Army Corps (War Strength)  83,850  22,706
Field Army (War Strength)  325,075  101,482

The proportion of animals to men is therefore:

Infantry Division 1 animal to every 2.86 men
Cavalry Division  1.28 animals to each man
*Army Corps 1 animal to every 3.69 men
Field Army 1 animal to every 3.20 men

*In the Army Corps the strength of the Corps Artillery is 8,437 men, the Anti-aircraft Artillery, 1,514 men and the Corps Air Service, 1,655 men; a total of 11,608 men in units provided exclusively with mechanical transport.

The proportion of animals to men during the Civil War was 1 animal to every 3.75 men, while in the World War approximately 1 animal to every 4 men was required.

Development of modern war machines and impedimenta has advanced in direct ratio to the development in mechanical transport requiring its full share of the cargo space of these vehicles. Thus we see that the animal drawn transport has been advanced along the lines of supply to the combat zone where it is used as a final connecting link with the actual fighting troops, often over country where motor vehicles cannot go-where roads are torn up and under shell fire.

The dependability of the animal is its greatest asset and it is still the most sure and reliable means of transportation. We now find it in the advance area hauling ammunition, machine guns, trench mortars, carts, rolling kitchens, ambulances, combat wagons, etc., to the fighting front where its life is short and its work of the most arduous and dangerous nature.

Great Britain in the World War, operating over many fronts, under many and varied conditions, had ample opportunity of determining the type of transportation best adapted to each, and it is interesting to note some observations made in the "Official History of the War-Veterinary Services (British)" which I take the liberty of quoting:

Those who witnessed and depended for their sustenance and means of defense upon the work of pack animals in bringing up food and ammunition through constantly shelled, muddy ground, which was impassable for wheeled transport, will agree that animals are necessary for war-like purposes. They will say that it is not easy to imagine any form of transportation which, in similar circumstances, could replace that of pack mules and cobs. Similarly, in mountain warfare, the pack animal is essential.

Motor transport has much to do with the success of the British military operations in Egypt, but the bulk of those operations would have been impossible without camels, horses, mules and donkeys.

In Mesopotamia at certain seasons motor transport had entirely to give way to animal transport, and here undoubtedly the mule and the despised ox saved the situation.

In Egypt and Palestine, 1917, the British Expeditionary Forces were more than usually dependent on horses, mules and camels for fighting and transport duties.

Apropos of the operations of the British Forces in the Balkans where the country is mountainous and most of the gun positions were on hill tops and the forward slopes of the hills, only pack transport could reach them-gun positions in the river valley's were largely reached by pack transport as the deep sand made the passage of wheel transport difficult.

Animal requirements in a war of movement are always greater than in a war of position, and it is an established fact that the shortage of horses, artillery and transport, seriously hampered the successful and expeditious execution of operations plans in the World War on the western front. The demand for cavalry was ever constant, and high commanders on both sides have testified that they were seriously handicapped by the lack of cavalry and that in the future wars this arm will be as important as in the past.

General Allenby's campaign in Egypt was undoubtedly made successful by the employment of cavalry, which operated under climatic and field conditions considered almost impossible for man or beast.

As a student of military history and as an authority on military affairs and requirements, Maj. Gen. James G. Harbord, United States Army, retired, holds a conspicuous place. That General Harbord feels that the horse and mule are indispensable in war is indicated by his talk delivered over radio at New York City in 1926, part of which is quoted:

We have the manpower for defense; and it can be mobilized and trained with fair speed when the occasion demands. Of this the World War furnished proof.

We are the greatest of the industrial nations. We can produce more rapidly than any other country the great quantities of mechanical devices and munitions that are necessary to war. Our industrial preparedness is being well organized.

But there are many things in war that cannot be done by men or machines, and that only animals can do. It takes several years to raise horses to the age at which they are suitable for hard work, and even then the weedy, unsound and weak ones cannot stand military usage. If the supply of well-bred, fit animals is not habitually kept up in time of peace, one of the most important pillars of the nation's structure of defense will be missing when, unhappily, we are again forced to war.

It is from my experience as a soldier, and particularly from my experience and observation of conditions of war as we lived them in 1917 and 1913, that I wish to emphasize to you this national need.

Many people-even many soldiers whose experience of war has been more or less narrow and who have seen only the part played by their own arm or service, involving use of tanks, airplanes or motor trucks-have the idea that war can be fought today with mechanical transport only, and without the aid of our four-footed friends. But I will tell you that it cannot be done. The contrary, however, is sometimes true. Under some circumstances, quite effective war can be waged without mechanical transport and with the aid of animals alone, as witness the opposition which the Rifflan tribesmen are today giving one of the most powerful military nations of the world.

In the supply of an army in the field, ships and trains bring up rations ammunition and the necessary multitude of supplies of all kinds from the home country to the depots of the theater of operations. Great convoys of motor trucks move these supplies from the depots, as far forward as the good roads required for their operation permit, to dumps or distributing points in the combat zone. There the absolute reliability of mechanical transport ceases; but the soldier in the fighting line must not suffer any interruption in the arrival of his food and ammunition. So it is there, as the last link of the service of supply, in the very area swept by enemy guns, that we find it necessary' to have great quantities of animal-drawn transportation.

In this area, close behind the lines, the roads may have great shell craters in them and detours must frequently be made through the soft ground on the sides. Delivery must often be made by byroads and paths to units deployed in the hills and mountains off the main roads. In winter, as in France and Belgium in 1917-1918, the roads are mires of mud cut to pieces by traffic of long columns and with no chance of repair; or there are unbridged streams to be crossed; or there is zero weather and the man in the trenches is poorly consoled for the lack of a day's food by the thought that the carburetor on company ration truck goes out of action in the cold. So from the division forward, hard experience has taught us to stick to animal-drawn transportation for supply.

Machine guns in battle are not placed near the broad highways as a rule, but rather are concealed in the rocky ravines, in farmyards and woods. It is only the horse or mule that can guarantee to take the guns quietly and surely into such positions, many of which are difficult even for men to reach without the use of their hands.

Divisional artillery, too, must be able to emplace off the roads. It must be able to get through mud and water with the same degree of certainty as the infantryman whom it supports. It frequently goes in position far forward in the combat zone at night when the noise of tractors would betray its presence. It must be able, when occasion demands, to march economically at the slow rate of the infantry, 2 1/2 miles per hour. Motors cannot meet these specifications, and the demand is for horses.

Many people-again many soldiers, judging war from the standpoint of their own more or less restricted participation, have the impression that the day of cavalry in war has passed; that the airplane, the machine gun and the barbed wire have banished it from the theater of operations. Nothing could be farther from the fact.

It is true that the airplane has relieved cavalry from much of the long-distance reconnaissance which formerly only cavalry could do. In this way, it assists the cavalry by allowing the latter to be concentrated on its more important missions of close reconnaissance and participation in the battle.

Airplane reconnaissance is not very effective at night or in rainy, foggy weather. Enemy air force has an insistent way of preventing leisurely or continued observation. The airplane must come down to the shelter of its own army when it runs out of gas, so it is not capable of maintaining constant observation. The airplane cannot bring in negative information, which is often of as much value as positive information. For example, in scanning a large wooded area for the enemy the aviator can only say, "I did not see the enemy"; cavalry, on the other hand, may well bring the report, "We have been through the woods and the enemy is not there." Both the cavalry and the air service of an army are needed for reconnaissance, and one complements the work of the other.

Cavalry participates in the battle today, as in years gone by, on that part of the field which affords most opportunity for its primary characteristic, its ability to move rapidly when close to the enemy, and across any kind of ground. Rapid movement in war usually finds its place on the flanks of the battle line.

In the days of Grant and Lee, of Sheridan and Jeb Stuart, brigades and divisions of cavalry were employed on the flanks of armies of a few thousand men deployed and fighting on fronts of a few miles. In the World War we saw really an army of cavalry operating on the flank of the Allied battle line in a war of movement that extended from Roumania to the Suez Canal. Every Allied army commander on the western front wished for cavalry in those days between July 18 and November 11,1918. On the brown Mesopotamian plains where the wars of mankind began, Allenby's cavalry demonstrated that mounted operations on a large scale are still in the war picture. The picture has changed only in scale arid war demands more cavalry than ever. Cavalry means horses in great quantities

Not only does the horse occupy a position in all theaters and phases of war, silently and faithfully performing his many duties, at times enduring untold hardships and sufferings without complaint or hope of reward, but occupies a place in the hearts of the men with whom he serves that can never be replaced.

For the original article,, click here.

For education and discussion only.

TOPICS: Miscellaneous

1 posted on 09/21/2001 5:59:56 PM PDT by Hopalong
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To: Hopalong
With the pulse weapon they had better have alot of horses around. It is very clear in scriptures that horses will be on the battlefield of Armeggedon.
2 posted on 09/21/2001 6:05:48 PM PDT by MissAmericanPie
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To: Hopalong
Good info and all that, but is this for obl's edification, or what? Freegards, JL
3 posted on 09/21/2001 6:10:40 PM PDT by lodwick (It's great to be a contributing FReeper! Please go Monthly Now! Thanks.)
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To: Hopalong, ThornIICav, Snow Bunny
Excellent post, Hopalong. Thank you. It does bring to mind the following scripture, which I always thought was describing tanks of some sort. Correlates with how the US Cavalry used to be horses, but is now tanks.

Rev 9 [16] And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.

[17] And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.

[18] By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.

[19] For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.

4 posted on 09/21/2001 6:14:50 PM PDT by JudyB1938
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To: Hopalong
Pack animals. Excellent FLIR signatures. The Taliban protectors will be in our sights all winter, a long, dark, frightful winter. Simple IR, thermal imaging, and air support laser target painting technology will improve our aim, down their shirt collars.

Iraqi veterans with the Tabliban can attest to the Afghans' shattering fate. The "Highway of Death" may not be much more than a "barnyard of death" with some tanks and artillary pieces thrown in for a lasting monument too tribal suicide.

The Jihadocrats' warrior myths spun from the implosion of the Soviet forces will lead to a Darwinian mass extinction of some Arab and eastern Turkic tribal murderers. The slaughter should be as horrorifying as the blasphemy at WTC on 9/11/01.

This is a war of annihilation. Make it so.

5 posted on 09/21/2001 6:38:49 PM PDT by SevenDaysInMay
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To: Hopalong
Upon seeing the title, I smiled and thought "no one but Hopalong."
6 posted on 09/21/2001 6:43:48 PM PDT by dighton
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To: Hopalong
Look back at our struggle for freedom, trace our present day's strength to it's source and you'll find that our pathway to glory, is strewn with the bones of the horse.- anonymous

My signature quote:)

Epona= horse goddess

7 posted on 09/21/2001 6:50:59 PM PDT by Epona
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To: Hopalong
Horses are in the tents--being groomed.

Women are bringing water.

8 posted on 09/21/2001 7:15:41 PM PDT by shetlan
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To: Hopalong
General Johnathan Wainwright said in 1953 that the US would be at a disadvantage using motorized vehicles and helicopters against a primitive enemy living in mountainous regions. He advocated the keeping of at least one cavalry division and artillery mounted on horseback or mules. Wainwright, the last US combat cavalry commander, thought it folly for the US to unhorse the cavalry. Afghanistan is that place that General Wainwright predicted. Cavalry or mounted infantry could move in bad weather where helicopters and the air force could not even get off the ground. The mountain roads of Afghanistan are not passable by anything except horseback and on foot. It would be good for Americans to learn more of the terrain and customs of the Afghanis and their national game of Bushkashish.
9 posted on 09/21/2001 7:33:26 PM PDT by vetvetdoug
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To: vetvetdoug
Wainwright, the last US combat cavalry commander, thought it folly for the US to unhorse the cavalry. Afghanistan is that place that General Wainwright predicted.

10 posted on 09/21/2001 8:32:45 PM PDT by ravinson
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To: vetvetdoug, ravinson, dighton
NHLA: Mountain packing with Llamas

"Llamas for use as pack animals were domesticated by the South American peoples in the Andes Mountains over 6,000 years ago. It was the Inca Civilization that uses these "ships of the Andes" for commerce, defense, agriculture, and the textile industry. As Spain conquered the South American peoples, gold and silver mines used the llamas by the thousands to plunder the wealth. Even today, the Andes Mountains are a challenge to cars, trucks, and horses. It is still the llama that can travel in the high altitudes and the harsh environment, and work.

North Americans began to realize the power of this animal as a pack animal in the 1960's in the Rocky Mountains. Since then, a business of 4-day treks for pleasure, hunting, or fishing has grown popular. Many government department like Fish and Game, the Forest Service, and Surveying have continually used the llama for its low maintenance and agile climbing ability. Presently, llama trekking is offered in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico, as well as the recent expansion into the Northeast and the Carolinas.

The features that best suit the llamas to the mountains are:

  1. The ability for low impact on the environment because of their soft padded, two-toed feet. This cushions the impact and distributes the weight between 4 feet and 8 toes, leaving little or no imprint on the ground. This doesn't harm the mountain vegetation or dig a trail like a hoof will.
  2. The ability to exist on little food. Being a modified ruminant (3 stomach chambers), the llama maximizes the nutrition of the eaten material by cud chewing.
  3. The ability to require water once a day. Actually, dew or plants and drinking water or eating snow will sustain the llama. The llama has water conservation in its biology. Other pack animals require water sustenance every 4 hours while working.
  4. The ability to climb, like a mountain goat, with agility and grace. Powerful back legs power the 400-pound animal in leaps up difficult terrain. Twelve to sixteen miles a day can be achieved in moderate terrain.

The structure of the llama requires the saddle,panniers, halter, and leads to be designed for their size, NOT like other pack animals. Their backbone is not supported by muscle and there is no collar bone at the shoulder so the weight is equally distributed on each side in the panniers (packs) supported by a saddle designed in a pyramid style. There are hard or soft pack designs and they can be purchased through many western manufacturers.

Here in the United States we teach our llamas to follow us. The lead line is attached to the halter (minus a bit because no top teeth in the front) and held by the hiker. Thus llama trekking is an exercise sport. Hikers still walk and climb while the llamas carry the load. Your back pack is left behind - on a llama. Usually, 60-80 pounds per llama that is in good condition for a 5-mile to 6-mile mountain hike is not unusual. One person can string llamas together in a line and easily manage three packed llamas to a camp site.

Spring training is a very important conditioning time. Road work toughens the feet, muscles, and builds up the endurance needed by the hiker and llama for the mountains. Each llama depending on age and experience will have different abilities. The straight legs, balanced body, and willingness to work are qualities that all athletic llamas have but experience is the best teacher...."

Regards to all. S&W R.I.P.
11 posted on 09/22/2001 10:10:04 AM PDT by Hopalong
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To: ravinson
Ahh, FreeRepublic is the place old cavalry reenactors go when they get too old, fat and feeble to go as cavalry. I looked at the roster and saw many old members of the 7th Illinois with whom I used to ride. Many members of the 7th Tennessee Cavalry, Co. D., CSA are posters of this forum.
12 posted on 09/22/2001 2:42:43 PM PDT by vetvetdoug
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To: Hopalong
Does PETA know this?
13 posted on 09/22/2001 2:46:35 PM PDT by wingnuts'nbolts
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To: MissAmericanPie
It is very clear in scriptures that horses will be on the battlefield of Armeggedon.

Well then it's simple isn't it. All we have to do is keep the horses out of battle, and Armageddon will never take place. It might even be worthwhile exterminating the species.


14 posted on 09/22/2001 2:47:31 PM PDT by Servant of the Nine
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To: wingnuts'nbolts
Dunno. Never ate any jeep myself.

Best regards. S&W R.I.P.

15 posted on 09/22/2001 2:50:59 PM PDT by Hopalong
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To: wingnuts'nbolts
The WWII jeeps, though, had leather here and there as substitutes for rubber, as in windshield pads. Spose if you boiled them long enough....

Best regards. S&W R.I.P.

16 posted on 09/22/2001 3:14:04 PM PDT by Hopalong
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To: wingnuts'nbolts, all
Animal Rights Terrorist Group Boasts About Acts as America Copes with Tragedy- (09/18)

Best regards. S&W R.I.P.

17 posted on 09/22/2001 3:51:18 PM PDT by Hopalong
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To: Servant of the Nine
There is a thought. (nicker)
18 posted on 09/22/2001 5:42:46 PM PDT by MissAmericanPie
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